Some coffee terms are more confusing than others. Two of the most confusing to newbies are a ristretto vs long shot. Need to know what you’re working with? Take a look below.
Both of these drinks are a version of an espresso. A ristretto is a short-extracted shot of espresso that uses half the amount of water typically used, and a long shot is a long-extracted shot of espresso that uses twice the amount of water typically used. And as you can guess, a classic espresso is in the middle. The differences in the extraction will make for a different flavor, so look at all of these details in the classic espresso variation.
What is a ristretto?
This is a mini espresso! Not only is it smaller in its actual size, but it will also use less water. It’s a cost-effective choice for a robust flavor with little use of ingredients. It blends an average amount of espresso grounds with half the water and a very short (aka “restrictive”) extraction time.
What is a long shot?
Think of this as your maximalist drink regarding the classic espresso profile. It combines the usual amount of espresso grounds with double the water in a classic espresso and extracts it for longer than the classic choice. While you may not be as familiar with it as a classic espresso, this is a popular drink in Italy.
Ristretto vs Long Shot key differences
It’s pretty straightforward when you think about it, but let’s take some time to get into the details of each of these drinks. After all, you’ll want to know what you’re ordering to give you the best experience for the final effect that you’re going for.
A ristretto and a long shot originate from Italy, as you probably already guessed! They are both popular choices for ordering at different times throughout the day, which I’ll discuss later.
The ingredients are identical from one drink to the next since it’s just the espresso grounds and water. The water amount differs, of course, but there are no extra ingredients. Though many don’t, you can even make a ristretto and a long shot from the same grounds.
The brewing process will be very different for these types of espresso shots. This is where each one separates from the classic espresso!
A ristretto is brewed, as you know, using the average bean amount and half the water over a shorter time. However, the beans should differ from classic espresso or a long shot! You’ll want to use a dark roast brew since it’ll have low acidity. Using the right beans is what gives it its distinctive flavor.
So what does that mean for the long shot? You can use whichever kind of beans you want. Many will go with beans that specifically have high acidity. The longer extraction process of the beans, and the extra water, create a different taste!
A ristretto’s serving size will be 0.5 oz (15 ml). It’s essentially half an espresso as far as the portion. A long shot differs depending on how much extra water you put in. It’s usually between 1.5-2 oz (45-60 ml).
Both tend to be served in a classic espresso cup, though it mostly depends on the coffee shop or what you have in your home, assuming you make it on your own.
There is a distinctive taste difference between a ristretto and a long shot, which is why understanding the differences between their brewing process is so important! A ristretto has a very intense, potent, robust flavor. It’s rich and smooth, and full-bodied. Some people down it like a shot, though most will sip it to simply draw it out longer. It’s well-loved by those who enjoy a strong taste.
A long shot is going to be more diluted in comparison. It is weaker in flavor than a classic espresso and is often more acidic when compared to a ristretto, which I talked about above. Since its extraction is longer, the extra water offers an evening out of the acidity, so it’s a hearty mellow drink!
Fun Fact: There are seven different types of acid found in coffee brews!
What is stronger: a ristretto or a long shot?
If you’re genuinely not sure how which of these is going to be stronger in its flavor and its caffeine content, I can relate. I couldn’t decide before I found out which would be stronger because there are so many factors to consider!
The winner in taste is going to be the ristretto. It has a vibrant and intense flavor that a long shot can’t compete with. The ristretto is sweet and bold, whereas the long shot is more bitter and diluted.
However, the caffeine content is going to be the exact opposite! Since more water passes through the beans when making a long shot, and it’s extracted for longer, the resulting drink is very rich in caffeine. While a ristretto gives you that punchy flavor and a notable caffeine kick, the long shot gives you a much more potent caffeine content, even if it doesn’t taste that way. I thought that was neat!
Calories in a ristretto vs. a long shot
Both of these drinks will have a calorie count of around one calorie. Since there is no difference in the ingredients, only the brewing process itself, they are on par with each other. Since the long shot has more caffeine, however, you’ll want to limit how many of those you have per day to protect your cardio health.
Which is better: a ristretto or a long shot?
It’s hard to choose because there are so many differences in the look, design, and taste of a ristretto and a long shot. Classically, a ristretto is excellent in the morning. The intense flavor and noticeable caffeine boost are a fantastic choice for starting your morning right.
The long shot is often an afternoon drink because it gives a powerful pick-me-up vibe as far as the caffeine is concerned, but it doesn’t have the same potency in the flavor. Of course, if you like the ristretto’s flavor, you can certainly have one of those instead.
Is a long shot better for my budget?
This is a popular question that many exploratory coffee and espresso drinkers ask! And it’s a valid one. You can get the best value for money when it comes to the amount of coffee/caffeine you get in a long shot (compared to a ristretto or an espresso). This makes sense based on what I’ve talked about already.
That being said, you’ll also find that a long shot is somewhat of a waste of money since you’re just paying for more water and more time. One hack to get the long shot at a cheaper price is to order a classic espresso and add a bit of water to it.
Is that the right thing to do? It purely depends on what you most want to achieve when it comes to your drink’s first and final sip!
A ristretto and long shots are shorter and longer, respectively, versions of classic espresso. A ristretto is brewed in half the time with half the water of a classic espresso. A long shot is brewed with double the time and water of a classic espresso. A ristretto is strong and vibrant in flavor but weaker in caffeine. A long shot has a higher caffeine level but is noticeably watered down in flavor. Regarding choosing what’s best, it comes down to determining what you want most!
Share this with the espresso lover in your life to show them just how much variation is out there!